Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Man & A Horse

On Friday night against the Baltimore Orioles Derek Jeter will - 'neath the lights of Yankee Stadium and the loving gaze of his family and Lyla Garrity herself - attempt to establish a new franchise record for hits in a career. Jeter went to bed on Wednesday night in some pretty good company - in a flat-footed tie with Lou Gehrig at 2,721. Having opened the Tampa Bay series with an 0-12 over the first three games, Jeter had three hits last evening. And when he knocked his third hit of the night and stood atop the bag at first base, he was bathed in a sea of applause.

It seems to me that it is appropriate that Jeter's first attempt at breaking the tie with Gehrig and moving alone to the top of the Yankees all-time hit list shall occur not only at Yankee Stadium but shall occur on the 8th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. The Yankees became forever intertwined with 09/11 during their magical post-season run in 2001, elevating the City and all of us in the Tri-State Area with their play, from "The Flip" play Jeter made in Game 3 in Oakland in the ALDS (with the Yankees down 2-0 in the best 3 out of 5 series), to their back-to-back-to-back wins in Games 3 through 5 of the World Series against the D'Backs, which series they ultimately lost in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 7.

New York City was reeling in the autumn of Aught-One and for just a little while anyway the Yankees helped inject some good vibes into what was an otherwise somber melody. That they ultimately fell short of their goal of winning their fourth consecutive World Series title on that early November evening in Arizona mattered little. It was the journey that mattered.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001 all Major League Baseball teams incorporated the playing and/or singing of "God Bless America" into their stadium's "7th Inning Stretch". Sadly, like many a pseudo-tradition - incorporated in large part to chase good P.R. - most teams ceased doing it when the '01 season ended. The Yankees have not. During the 7th inning stretch of every Yankees home game since the very first one they played following the attacks of September 11th, God Bless America has been either sung live or played (Kate Smith's rendition) over the Stadium's P.A. system.

It shall be played during the 7th inning stretch on Friday night as well - honoring as it always does all of those who were murdered eight years ago tomorrow and all of those who have served this nation on battlefields around the world since. On the first anniversary of the attacks the Yankees played a home game - coincidentally also against the Orioles - that Rob and I attended. Irish tenor Ronan Tynan sang his rendition of God Bless America that evening during the 7th inning stretch and while neither Rob nor I shall be there tomorrow night, Mr. Tynan shall be.

And Derek Jeter shall be as well. Under the lights of a Friday Night.


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